Tracy Wasson wins 2016 Paul Simon Essay Contest at SIC

March 11, 2016

A student essay reflecting on how life’s circumstances can guide you in a different direction than expected and also how the encouragement given at Southeastern Illinois College helps one to follow their passion has earned Tracy Wasson of Herod the 2016 Paul Simon Essay award at SIC.

“I am feeling both humbled and encouraged to have won this essay award,” said Wasson. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to have written about my community college and the many opportunities that SIC has not only offered myself but many others in our rural area.”

After graduation in May, Wasson, an Associate Degree of Nursing (ADN) student, plans to continue finishing her pre-requisite classes for a Bachelor of Nursing. Her specific long term goal is to complete a Master of Nursing Management and Administration. After taking mission trips to Haiti, Wasson feels compelled to visit again, this time as a Registered Nurse.

Dr. Dana Keating, SIC vice president for academic and student affairs, congratulated Wasson on her award and presented her with a $50 check.  Wasson’s essay will be entered into the Illinois Community College Trustees Association’s Paul Simon Student Essay Contest at the state level.  The winner of that contest will receive a $500 scholarship during an annual awards luncheon this summer in Normal. 

SIC means opportunity for any person,” said Wasson. “It means a united force of many people, with diverse backgrounds that collaborate together to form a beautifully, yet tightly interwoven support system that empowers individuals to reach their goals.  I am honored to be part of such a wonderful support system. Simply stated, SIC has changed my life, an impact I hope to have on future patients that I come across in my career.”

For more information on the contest, call 217-528-2858, ext. 1.



Wasson’s essay by permission:


“Tell me and I forget.

Teach me and I remember.

Involve me and I learn.”

Benjamin Franklin


            From the beginning of high school all I could think about was what I wanted to pursue. What career path and how I would select that path haunted me daily. I love painting, drawing, and artistically challenging myself. Those subjects came easily to me. I knew mathematics, science, and history was my downfall. In 1991, I decided to go to Southeastern Illinois Community College in Harrisburg, Illinois. At SIC, my first college art instructor said that I had actual talent. It was there my first college mathematics instructor told me I wasn’t as bad at math as I thought. At 18 years of age, I actually felt challenged. I got married and experienced my community college for only a semester that year.          

Life is full of achievements and full of disappointments. On a hot July day in 2012, my father suddenly had a heart attack and died while bicycling. Over 40 minutes of CPR and no sign of him returning sent me spiraling into deep thoughts about my life. My four children all getting into their teenage years and becoming young adults had me doing some inner searching. I decided to go back to Southeastern Illinois College, seek an advisor, and decide a new path. 

At 40 years of age, I found myself receiving an acceptance letter into the practical nursing program. I would have never believed that I would choose the nursing field: a field that was so science and mathematically based. I sat in that classroom with peers half my age, but I felt so alive, so passionate, so determined to follow my heart.        

During the summer of 2014, I went on a mission trip to Haiti. I was to assist in a sports camp in the severely impoverished area of Bigarade. While there, an opportunity arose to assist in meeting some basic medical needs within the community. I simply felt overwhelmed with compassion. My determination to pursue an associate’s degree in nursing grew that summer. Once again, my advisor, the nursing administrator, nursing instructors, and community college held my hand through that process. I again found my acceptance letter into the ADN program the summer of 2015. At present, I have almost completed that degree. Again, my community college assisted me to reach this insurmountable goal. To me personally, the meaning of community is a group of like-minded people working, striving together to see achieved success, a gathering of minds, a united glorying of achievements, a pinnacle of appreciation, the embarking of new ideas, path finders, leaning of ears, sharing of ideals, and the procuring of future minds. That is my community college and that is how it has changed my life. All I have is gratitude towards my community’s involvement for supporting me while I pursue this passion.